Having answered “What is TMJ“, we move on… This page is a summary packed full of useful advice on how you can get TMJ relief both when you have acute symptoms and also what can help in the longer-term.
TMJ Relief: Quick Tips
For relief of acute symptoms:
- Rest your jaw. This can be difficult, but avoid yawning and other extreme jaw movements and stick to a soft diet. Avoid hard, chewy or crunchy foods. Don’t bite into large foods; cut food into small pieces and chew slowly and gently.
- Apply heat packs or cold compresses (one at a time!) to the side of the face where the pain lies. This is one of the better remedies for many people.
- Doing massages and gentle jaw exercises at home can help. See this useful guide for more on TMJ exercises. Following these may also help in the longer term.
- Painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants, as prescribed by your dentist/doctor.
- Wear your dental mouth guard, if you have one (and if it helps with relief of acute symptoms).
In the case of severe symptoms, medication may be injected in to the joint for temporary relief from jaw pain. This may be a steroid, local anesthetic or Botox.
Other medications such as Serenitol (a ‘natural’ sleeping pill) and proteolytic enzyme tablets are advocated by some as a cure, but have no proven benefits as yet.
Longer Term TMJ Treatment
Long term management to help the symptoms will depend on the causes. Possible strategies include:
1. Mouth guard
Your dentist may make a plastic night guard (splint) that will protect your teeth and reduce the strain on your jaw. This is most commonly used at night to relieve the effects of grinding teeth in sleep (more on this here), although can also be worn during the day when necessary. Read our page on mouthguards here.
2. Dental treatment
If your joint is structurally normal, but your dentist identifies problems with your bite, s/he may suggest various treatments to help with TMJ pain relief:
- If your bite is out of line and a contributing factor the problem, your dentist may recommend orthodontic work as a treatment.
- Bite (occlusal) adjustment – reshaping some of the teeth so that they meet properly and the jaw moves correctly as a result. This is a common option in the treatment of TMD.
- Replacement of missing teeth, as a loss of teeth can affect the way you bite and hence may put strain on the jaw joints.
3. Surgical treatment
In a very few cases where other treatment options have failed and/or a structural problem with the TMJ is diagnosed, surgery may be necessary. This will be carried out by a specialist surgeon, based on accurate findings from X-rays and possibly other scans.
‘Key-hole’ surgery may be possible, involving the use of a small camera beside the joint, accessed from small incisions in the area. More invasive ‘open’ surgery may be necessary in rare cases.
4. Stress reduction
Increased level of stress is often associated with the symptoms of TMJ syndrome. If stress is a factor, is should be dealt with. Your dentist or doctor may recommend professional counselling or psychotherapy. Cognitive behavorial therapy has proven benefits. Relaxation strategies, such as meditation or hypnosis may help in some cases.
TMJ disorders may resolve quickly. Especially if the appropriate preventative and treatment measures from those outlined above are undertaken. Some problems may last longer, especially those that are a result of long-term bruxism or physical disease such as arthritis.
Always consult your dentist with any concerns and s/he will work with you to provide TMJ relief and help reduce the effect jaw pain can have on your well-being.
Read more on TMJ exercises here.